Global Communications Company, OneWeb, which is also one of SpaceX’s rivals, is closing in on wholesale deals to help pay for its multi-billion-dollar satellite constellation, the startup’s new Chief Executive Officer, Neil Masterson, said.
The London-based company is on course to become a formidable rival of Elon Musk’s SpaceX to beam broadband internet to isolated regions from space. The overall number to 146 sent up 36 of the fridge-sized satellites last week; however, it was still well short of the 648 planned.
“We have memoranda of understanding and advanced discussions taking place, and final negotiations,” Masterson told Bloomberg News.
Masterson said that talks with phone carriers and providers of communication services for the maritime and aviation industries are advancing with his company, and expects to finalize deals in the coming days. OneWeb is in “quite advanced conversations” with possible partners in Canada, the U.K., the Nordic region, Australia, and Africa, “so we’re really feeding the pipeline here,” he added.
Masterson, a former executive at the Thomson Reuters Corp., a Canada-based multinational media conglomerate, was appointed in November after OneWeb was rescued from bankruptcy for $1 billion in a surprise swoop by Indian telecommunications group Bharti Global and the U.K. government.
Former lead shareholder SoftBank Group Corp., Japanese multinational conglomerate holding company returned to invest $350 million in January. That still leaves a funding gap of roughly $1 billion, however, Masterson is confident in OneWeb’s funding, without saying how long it could continue operations using existing funds.
Masterson said that by the end of the year, OneWeb is on track to go live in northern latitudes, “including Alaska, Canada, Greenland, the U.K., and the Nordics, as well as the airspace and oceans surrounding them.”
Unlike SpaceX’s Starlink which is targeting consumers directly and has begun to sign up some users in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S, OneWeb is going to sell capacity wholesale to businesses and governments.
OneWeb already has deals with Alaskan telecom company PDI and Hughes Satellite Systems Corp. According to Bloomberg, OneWeb, “could also sell capacity to telecommunication providers like Britain’s BT Group Plc: The two companies have discussed cooperating to reach rural customers”.
Masterson believes that the satellite business is changing and developing rapidly with demand strong enough for more than one low-earth-orbit constellation to survive. But the faster OneWeb achieves its goals, “the stronger our voice will be in the inevitable restructuring of this industry,” he added.